And When the Snow Had Melted: The October 2007 Poker Report

(Editor's Note: This bastard took me almost two weeks to post after the last Poker Report, but I was busy writing fiction and doing other stuff. I'm going to try to pick up the pace and be caught up by the end of July.)

October 5 2007

Who’s Running the Show?: We’re all looking to become better people. Sometimes, it’s because of some moral imperative. (It’s wrong to be so cruel.) Sometimes, it’s because the judge is just tired of your shit. (One more violation, and it’s hard time again.) And sometimes, it’s because a significant other is going to make you into somebody whom she can love or tolerate or even look at.

(It’s the last one, apparently who got a hold of one of our players. To protect whatever’s left of his street cred, I will leave his name out of this.)

I used to see this guy all the time, but not so much nowadays. But one of our founding members ran into him, and they got to talking. The conversation turned to our poker game, and queries were made into this person’s lack of regular attendance at our game. I should say at this point that this guy had hardly ever missed a game.

This cat then says, without shame or hesitation, that his new beloved doesn’t let him drink or gamble. Well, I guess that she’s cleaning up his degenerate life, which, I guess again, means that we’re a bunch of degenerates.

I’m the opposite of seedy and/or shady (I am a sensitive poet, after all), so either I've been greatly insulted, or I’ve been paid a great compliment.

As to who’s running the show: she is.

Diet Water: I provide the snacks at our game. Mostly, it’s pretty bad stuff. Salty and sugary and high in cholesterol. You’re welcome. Live your life, man, even if you take a few years off at the end because of one too many fried whatevers. As I always say, if you’re rolling, roll big.

But then one of my poker homies had a stomach thing this week. An entire day at a hospital, tests in long tubes, follow-up appointments. This was the second time with a stomach-related thing for this dude, so I was, of course, pretty worried. I've got this thing about death: I stand against it. I’m also against anything that hints at or reminds of mortality.

That same day, I’m sending out the weekly poker e-mail, and I include a little note letting everybody know the bare bones of what’s going on, and also asking that everyone keep good thoughts.

Scary stuff. But I got a call the next day from my big bro telling me that our homie was out of the hospital and would be fine. Thank Christ.

Then more e-mails go back and forth. I make jokes about his diet, specifically about the PayDays that he consumes at the game. (I buy them by the box at Costco, and we all get down, though I’m pretty sure that I might have a peanut allergy. Throat constriction. Breathing trouble. It’s a concern, but not enough to stop me from eating the hell out of those bastards.)

He makes a counter-joke that it was probably the fried burritos that got him. Ouch, because I have also, on occasion, served up the fried burritos. I respond to the crew by saying that I’m going to stop serving junk food and giving everybody when they walk in a head of lettuce to “chew on.” Along with that lettuce, I said that I’d give them “diet water.”

So then I see this dude at our poker game, and I've got questions. One of the first ones is if the stomach thing really had anything to do with his diet. Yes, he says. I ask if the last stomach thing had anything to do with his diet. Yes, he says again. What the hell?

This guy is my homie, one of my favorite people (even though he takes so much money off of me at our game that I’m pretty sure that I’m currently making his car payments, and he’s got a nice car), so I let that second answer hang in the air. I then ask my final question: What have you done between Monday and today to change your diet? It’s a powerful question, one to which I’m scared that I already know the answer.

But he surprises me by pulling an apple out of his pocket.

Respect. It’s a brave man who will eat fruit. Among my most closely held convictions is that vegetables should never be consumed by people and that fruit should only be eaten in processed form: candy and baked goods.

But, I care about my people, so I point out to Bert the bag of “Fruit Medley” that I had just picked up at Costco; it’s mostly dried fruit (though I only recognize the banana and pineapple pieces; there’s a lot of orangey and fuchsiaish and reddish stuff in there, too, but I've no clue as to its provenance ) with some nut action, too, and it tasted pretty okay when I was on that health kick last year and would consume it at our poker games along with bottled water. (I’m sorry if nut action ended up sounding a tad graphic up there, by the way.)

Bert tore that bag open, and he seemed to like it, so maybe he’ll make that his go-to poker snack.

I don’t think, by the way, that Bert even touched his apple after showing it to me. Perhaps he was hoping to partake of its healthful properties through osmosis. It’d have to be a pretty powerful apple, though, to deliver its good stuff through the layers of his jacket and shirt.

The Opposite of the Good Stuff: If only my game were like that apple, all healthy and good. Instead, I boned away $104.25, boning the YTD all the way down to +$149.50 and the overall to 23-19. So now I’m only about fifty dollars from being in double digits for the YTD.

October 12 2007

I’m Awesome That Way: I’m holding A-7 spades from the button. Most players would raise with that hand, but I’m kind of chickenshit. Maybe in a tournament, where I can really push it and get folds, but limit’s harder.

Bert makes it $3.50, and I call. The flop looks like a great flop for me: 7-4-2, with two spades. Top pair, top kicker, with a nut flush draw. Against any better hand, I’m a 56% favorite to catch up and win. And the deuce or the four don’t scare me.

I bet the $5, and Bert calls. On the turn, a second four hits the board, I bet $5, Bert makes it $10, and I take it to $15 with a hand that I am pretty sure is still leading. Bert calls, and we go to the river.

The river card doesn’t improve my hand, and I’m stranded with a pair of sevens with an ace kicker. I slow down and check it. Bert leads out for $5. It’s a hard call to make, but there is now $52 in the pot, and you want to make a guy show his cards when so much money gets put in.

I call, and Bert turns over his pocket deuces, giving him the 2-2-2-4-4 full house. He had flopped a set and had led me the whole way. In fact, when he turned his boat, I was both drawing dead and betting into his hand.

I never for a moment put him on deuces. Usually, a player will limp in with such a small pocket pair and hope to hit on the flop and then get paid off with a well-disguised set.

Ivan and the RSVP and the Accident: How to say this delicately? Ivan never RSVPs to the weekly e-mail that I send out to the crew. He’s coming, he’s not coming. Who the hell knows?

But this week, for the first time ever, Ivan actually RSVPed. Not only that, but he was the first one to RSVP. We in the poker crew were as excited as little girls who just got ponies for Christmas, and the e-mails started flowing.

But, come Friday, Ivan’s nowhere to be seen. The tourney starts at 8:00 p.n., and no Ivan. The cash game starts, and no Ivan. Then everybody’s asking, “Where’s Ivan?”

We’re on the verge of giving up, and then we give up. No Ivan.

But then, a little after 12:30 a.m., Ivan shows up. Sadly, Bert had left by then, so we didn’t get the founding members of our game together at the table for the first time in a long time.

Still, it’s fun hanging with one of my homies. But I've got to work on Saturday, and I’ve got to get on the road by 1:30 a.m. so that I can make my 45-minute drive and then get to my 7:45 a.m. gig.

I know that if I stay too long, I’m going to zombie it at work a few hours later, but neither do I want to leave the game because we only really get to hang with Ivan, ladies man deluxe, when he’s between female companions.

I decide to stick it out a little while longer, and I finally get on the road at 2:06 a.m.

I figure that if I go extra fast that I can make up a little of the time that I’ve lost.

Which would have worked well except for the fact that I killed the hell out of a bird on the drive home. It was just hanging out in the middle of the road, and it made its move to fly out of the way at what turned out to be way past the last second. I got him pretty good with the right-side A-frame.

So then I was driving and trying to figure out what to do. There was no way that the bird was going to be okay, but there was a chance that it hadn’t died and might be suffering. I thought that probably the humane thing to do would be to, and I’m sorry if you find this an indelicate topic, mercy kill it by running it over.

I turned my ride around and went up and down the road on which I’d been a few times, but I never did find the bird, so I hope that its passing was quick.

I May Have Driven Off of a Bridge: I thought that I was about to enter my third straight week of dropping quan, loads of it. What are you going to do? As long as I was playing well, I was going to be satisfied by whatever happened money-wise, but only if I was playing really well.

And, of course, I proceeded to play not so well. I didn’t punk and make folds that I shouldn’t have made; if I had the hand or the odds, I went, but I didn’t push when I had hands with which I could push. I did bluff at and win two pots, but I could have been working those types of hustles much more than I did.

So, after that initial hand with Bert, the losses began, Soon enough, I was down to the last $25 of my First Hundred™, and I re-bought for the Second Hundred™: twenty $5 chips.

Thankfully, those chips never got into play. They just sat there, looking all green and lovely. Little by little, I got most of the First Hundred™ back. Then I’d slip down, only to turn it around again.

Finally, I held steady. It was only until the last hour that I actually got into the black. I ended up with a $28 profit. Not a lot, but certainly better than losing into the three figures for the third week in a row.

I also got the YTD to +$177.50 and the overall to 24-19.

19 October 2007

I Don’t Give It Away: Arizona was making some out-of-this-world calls. He’d get a read and stick with it and call down hands to the end and win the hands. Both times, in recognition of his great plays, I gave him a fist tap, as men are wont to do when they have witnessed something sweet.

Later, my big bro also made a great play to build up and take a huge pot. Ice and Bert also made solid plays, and I fist tapped them, as well.

The only person for whom I hadn’t given it up was Jesse. He and I have this thing where I think he makes nothing but bad calls, and he disagrees. I’m right and he’s wrong. Calling big bets on gutshot draws, which puts him at less than five-to-one to hit, but there he is. Etcetera. (I should say, begrudgingly and with malice in my heart, that Jesse is a pretty consistent winner at our game, so he does have something figured out.)

And I also refuse to recognize when he has actually makes a good play. One of the ways in which I withhold recognition is in not giving him a fist tap when he makes good plays.

Jesse had just worked a hustle to create and pull a huge pot, and I didn’t say a thing. Jesse, then extended a fist and asked if he had made a good play. I merely said, “Eh, it was all right,” and left him hanging, as they say.

I waited for him to pull his fist back, in order to complete the psych, and then I extended my own. Then he refused to give it up, and he may even have cussed me a little bit. Finally, we fist tapped, and the circle was made complete.

Into the Other World: Sometimes, I call out the card that I think will land on the turn or the river. Most of the time, I call out for the deuce. Most of the time, I am wrong.

Such is life, but the first time that I guessed deuce I was right. The odds of that happening are slightly better than 1-in-13. The second time that I called deuce, I was also right. The odds of turning that particular double play are slightly better than 1-in-169.

I was feeling a great connection to the hidden world and its mysteries, as if I were tapped into something larger and more powerful than myself. I was ready to chuck it all and take my act out on the road.

But then I missed two in a row, and the odds of correctly hitting a river guess two out of four times is only 1-in-42. Not bad, certainly, but not enough to get a book deal or a guest spot on Letterman. My connection mysteriously reestablished itself later when I correctly called a diamond on the turn, against 1-to-4 odds, meaning that the odds of hitting the three out of five guesses that I did went back up to 1-in-169. Not bad.

Wired Jacks Are Worthless: Not really. They’re strong, but not invulnerable. They can be dead on the flop to twelve overcards, and you’re nowhere, drawing to two outs.

The schools of thought on playing wired jacks, then, are varied. Generally, in a tournament you don’t want to do anything stupid that is going to cost you a lot of chips or that could knock you out of the tournament. In a full ring cash game, you don’t go too crazy with them, and especially not against players who aren’t getting involved without good starter hands.

Probably the easiest situation in which to work with wired jacks is in a short cash game. We were six handed, and any pocket pair is going to be pretty good, but especially a high pair. Bet the hell out of it and take what you can take, even if everybody folds. If you get calls, see what develops on the flop, hoping that the board shows all undercards.

In one hand, Bert made it $5 to go, Arizona took it to $10, and, inexplicably, I took it to $14. It wasn’t that I raised that was inexplicable; it was that I only raised by $4. I had pocket kings, so, with two people already voluntarily putting money into the pot, I wanted to knock out at least one of the players if he was betting a big pre-flop drawing hand because I’d rather have one player drawing against me than two.

Still, Bert folded, and Arizona called. The flop was ten-high, all undercards to my hand, so I bet $5. Arizona called without any hesitation. I was hoping he was putting me on a bluff and not that he had made a set or was slow-playing the hell out of aces. The turn was another undercard, so I bet $5, thinking that Arizona might go away then. No such luck.

The river was a queen, but since Arizona is a pretty solid player who wouldn’t be putting money into the pot on some speculative hand, I didn’t want to make another bet only to have Arizona finally-check-raise me at the end for another $5.

I checked behind, turned over my kings, and Arizona turned up pocket jacks.

I hadn’t outplayed Arizona; I had just gotten luckier pre-flop, and then had had my hole cards hold up. I got $24 on that hand.

Then, a few hands later, Arizona again had wired jacks, and this time I had wired queens. That hand was good for $21. Yeah, that’s pretty boned.

Two in a Row: So I won again, this time for $25.75, moving the YTD to +$203.25 and the won-loss to a pretty sad looking 25-19.

Last time, it was $28 that I won. Those are the kinds of totals that you win in one pot at our table, which shows how thin the line is between profits and losses when you play with a bunch of heavy hitters. You’ve got to come correct on nearly every play because the last thing you want to do is slit your own throat. At our game, everybody’s holding steel, and everybody’s more than wiling to do the slitting for you. They’d be happy to do it.

26 October 2007

(Editor’s Note, 29 June 2008: Yeah, this next section’s going to be slight. I guess that I wasn’t doing a very good job of taking notes at the game during the fall of 2007. Sorry about that.

I think that the problem was that there was a lot of stuff going on and I sometimes didn’t have very much time to expand whatever notes that I had quickly jotted down at the game.

This might be boring, but here goes: I used to work every Saturday, but now I’m splitting Saturdays down at the factory with another coworker. On the Friday night before those off-Saturdays, I take some pretty good post-game notes because I can be up as late as I want.

On the Friday nights before my work Saturdays, I’ll try to cash out in time to take a few notes: game totals, players in attendance, section titles, and a few preliminary sentences and/or paragraphs, all of which gives me a lot from which to draft.

Sometimes, if I stay too long at the game, I’ll only have a few minutes [maybe even only one minute] before I have to get on the road to jot down game totals, players in attendance, and section titles. I’ll count on memory to help me fill in the rest later.

And then there was 26 October 2007, where I only managed to jot down game totals and the below paragraph. Which means one of two things: that I must have been running really late or that the game was the most boring one ever in our, to that point, thirty-four month history of our game.)

Because He’s Off the Wall: When we play in the Winter Poker Room, which is a fancy way of saying the living room, we can hear the cars pulling up to the house on the gravel driveway. Each car makes its own distinctive sound on the driveway because of its weight and shape and because of the spot on the driveway towards which it is moving. I can tell the difference between Jesse’s big ass truck and Bert’s smaller Toyota in the same way that I can tell the difference between Arizona’s car and Ice’s car. And Ivan almost always arrives bumping relatively new music.

(Editor’s Note, 29 June 2008: I’m wondering now how many of us there are out there who still refer to loud dance songs [we used to call them jams] as being bumping. Other ways to use versions of bump in the same style could be using it as a verb, something like Those speakers really bump. You can also make it in the imperative style, as in Hey, dude, bump that song.)

The only rides that ever really stump me are the ones of our less-than-regular players. I’m sure that if they played more often than they did that I’d have their cars’ sounds memorized, as well.

Tonight, there was a stumper. Most cars arrive from the west (where Madera, the city where most of our player lives, lies) but this one came from the east. It came from the east, and it was pumping a beautiful beat. As the tires stopped moving and the sound of them against the gravel disappeared, the beautiful beat was revealed to be Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough.

(Editor’s Note: You may be wondering now why I chose Because He’s Off the Wall as the title of this section when the song in question was an entirely different one. It was a judgment call.

Most of it had to do with the fact that Because He’s Off the Wall sounds really cool, and the only section title of which I could think that made direct reference to the actual song being played was Because You Can Never Get Enough, which sounds too much like the title of the Cure’s song, Never Enough, one of the few songs of theirs that I really can’t stand.

[And that, ladies and gentlemen, might be the only time in history that the Cure’s and Michael Jackson’s music are referenced in the same paragraph. It’s great to be a part of history.]

Furthermore, both songs are by the same artist and are off of the same album [one of the great albums of the 1970s], so it’s not like I wandered too far afield.

I’m sorry if this Editor’s Note got a little bit defensive. Like I said, it was a judgment call.)

Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough is one of the great driving songs, clearly, but I’d never heard any of our regulars arrive going old-school on the road music, so it wasn’t much of a clue as to who had just arrived.

(Off of the top of my head, here are a few other great driving songs: Stevie B’s Spring Love, Talvin Singh’s Light, McFadden & Whitehead’s Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now, Soul II Soul’s Back To Life, Levy’s On the Dance Floor, DJ Cam’s Summer in Paris, Massive Attack’s Daydreaming, DJ Shadow’s Giving Up the Ghost, and the Dazz Band’s Let It Whip.

...let's whip it baby, let's whip it right/ let's whip it baby, whip it all night...)

Thankfully, the mystery driver parked close to the front door, which activated the security lights. I had no idea who I was going to see in that car in the driveway.

I have a lot of enemies, having made a lifelong and bitter one in the past few months, so there are tons of people whom I am currently avoiding, and I thought that this might be one of those people coming to settle things once and for all.

It was Ivan, arriving unannounced, as usual.

Mystery solved.

(Editor’s Note, 29 June 2008: And that was the extent of what I was able to extract from those notes for the 26 October 2007 section of The October 2007 Poker Report. I’m deeply ashamed, more that usual, which is already pretty high to begin with.)

Also Shameful: Were tonight’s results. I lost $10.50 (bitch-slapping the YTD down to +$192.75 and the overall to 25-20), which isn't very much, but I was hoping that a decent night might help me to erase the deficit that I started during the first game in October but that I had managed to cut in half at the next two games.

Instead, I lost tonight $61.00 for October. So much for hope.

(Editor's Note: The title of this month's Poker Report comes from Jesse Sykes and The Sweet Hereafter's Winter Hunter, a song that I've been listening to consistently for the last twenty-nine months, though I have no idea, really, what it's about. Who's the winter hunter? Who's the you being addressed? What the hell are the tracks that carry? I've no clue, but Ms. Sykes's voice is so lovely and sad, that I'm fine with not knowing.)